Tips for Obtaining Your First Graphic Design Job

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Job options in the field of graphic design include positions at design companies, publication and media outlets, advertising agencies, corporations, and nonprofit and educational organizations. Getting your first graphic design job can be a little difficult, as competition is fierce. Let’s look at some helpful hints:

  • Portfolio: Put only your top-notch work in your portfolio. First impressions are important; put your best piece first. Employers remember the last thing they see so put one of your best pieces at the end of the collection, as well. Include a variety of projects to demonstrate your versatility. Make sure to ask colleagues for feedback on your portfolio. If you can’t find paying clients, then offer to do some work for free. When you do meet with prospective employers, leave a digital version of your portfolio with them so that they can review it at their leisure. Also, attend portfolio reviews sponsored by local professional design organizations and pay attention to the feedback.
  • Free services: Offer free services to nonprofit organizations and small businesses. Besides enhancing your resume, providing free work will create some networking opportunities and give you valuable experience.
  • Resume: Everyone hunting for a job needs a good looking resume, especially aspiring graphic designers. You can use your resume to impress prospective employers with your visual communication skills. Since you’re applying for a graphic design position, consider placing a personal monogram or logo on your resume.
  • Interview: Engage in practice interviews with colleagues and get some feedback. It’s important to realize that the interview is not about what you want from the job but what you can do for the employer. Ask questions about the company to show that you’re interested in what they do. Follow up with a phone call after the interview to reiterate your interest in the job. The phone call will also help a busy prospective employer remember you better.
  • Degree: Some talented graphic designers work in the field without a college education, but most employers prefer applicants who have a graphic design degree. Look for a graphic design program that includes a solid base of core design, art courses, typography, illustration, website development, digital media, and advertising design. Select a school that’s recognized in the industry. Look for graphic design programs that include an internship, as internships provide valuable experience and networking opportunities. Employers often hire talented interns once they’ve finished school.
  • The Web: Create your own website and include your portfolio. Obviously, a website is especially vital if you want a job as a web designer. Your website is a great place to showcase your in-demand designs.

Don’t wait to be discovered, show the world of graphic design you’ve got talent!

Brian Jenkins contributes content to the BrainTrack website about careers in graphic design, among other topics.

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Catalin is the founder of Mostash - a social marketing boutique - and he's always happy to share his passion for graphic design & social media.
  • Great post and some awesome tips. I only wish I had seen this earlier in my career even though I did end up doing almost everything on the list anyway.

    p.s. Everyone loves some free stuff here and there…EVERYONE

  • rob

    When I was getting started the biggest momentum I built was from pro-bono work for an arts management company… Sure it was free, but the projects were really cool so my portfolio filled out nicely in short order… Landed my first paying gig as a direct result!

  • Oscar

    Extremly useful information
    Thanks A LOt For those Tips.

  • Adolfo Enríquez

    Cool tips! I totally agree with work for free to Non-profit organizations, if you’re a newbie, because as you said this is a great opportunity to gain experience in a real world and to increase your portafolio with real projects. Once you’ve gained enough experience in managment real-cases,then you are ready to manage big projects.

    Regards from Mexico!

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  • M

    Good tips. Why not try to get experience and do some freelance work? Try using a portal like http://www.twago.com and communicate that you would like to work at a cheaper rate to get some projects for your portfolio. I have had a great response from doing this!

  • cool resourceful info
    thanks!!! for such great tips
    …..

  • Thanks for the information. This will surely come in handy.

  • This has a lot of great advice. Definitely emphasize your portfolio and skills and of course nail your interview!!

  • Good tips. They are also useful inexperienced designers too